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Moving Abroad For A Partner

Shannon Young Advice 4 Comments

Love is becoming increasingly international. It’s easier to meet people from other countries, whether in person or online, and to conduct long distance relationships via webcam and instant messaging. But the proliferation of international relationships means that at some point you may find yourself uprooting your life entirely and moving abroad for a partner.

“I want to be where you are.” Moving to their home

Life as an expatriate always requires an adjustment. When you’re joining a partner, you will have a built-in tour guide. However, you may be tempted to simply tag along with them, spend time with their friends, and visit their favorites places. It’s important for you to make a piece of the new country your own. Make friends. Find a job, hobby, or volunteer opportunity. Go exploring without your partner.

Make sure your partner understands your need to find your own way some times. They will probably be eager to show you the ropes. Trust their advice, but try to figure things out by yourself sometimes. This is the only way that you can build up the confidence in yourself that you’ll need to thrive as an expatriate.

I moved to Hong Kong to join my long distance love, but a month after I arrived his company sent him to London for a year. During that time, I was living in his home country alone. In a way, I was lucky because I had no choice but to find my own friends and activities. Hong Kong became my city as well as my sweetheart’s childhood home. When he returned, I was able to show him a thing or two.

“How can we make this work?” Moving to a new country together.

2bIf you and your partner are both relocating so you can be together, you’ll get to form routines, explore exotic places, and practice a new language together. However, you may find that you have different reactions to the new country. Perhaps one of you is more suited to life abroad, or one of you is more passionate about the culture you are experiencing. Keep in mind that culture shock looks different for different people, and be patient with each other.

Before you move, talk about your expectations for the experience. Are you doing it only to be together? Are you both excited about the new adventure? Are either of you running away from something, rather than toward it? How long do you plan to stay there?

“What do we do next?”

Give yourselves a year to get used to the new country. It takes most expats this long to adjust. Then, reassess whether it is still the right place for you and your relationship. You may be happier if you know the move is temporary, or you may just need some time to get used to the idea of living in another country permanently. Communicate about your expectations for the future, and make a point of reexamining your situation once a year.

“Is this even a good idea?”

Don’t be afraid to try. A move to another country is a big deal, but it’s not as daunting as it used to be. You will be able to talk to your friends and family back home the same way you do with your beloved now. You will have a grand adventure with the person you love. However, make sure you know yourself, know your partner, and know your plans.

What concrete things can you do to help your transition to a new country go smoothly?
If you’ve been an expat, what was one thing that surprised you about the experience?

Shannon Young (Hong Kong)

Blog: A Kindle in Hong Kong, Book: The Olympics Beat

Comments 4

  1. Bree

    My husband and I moved to the USA together just 9 months after we got married. We were both shocked that we experienced culture shock moving from Australia – we had thought the USA would not be that different to home. We also became very insular and we had to make some determined efforts to get out of our comfort zones and explore our new city, make new friends and find “Our LA”. When we moved 2 years later to NYC, I think we were much better at negotiating those early months and being deliberate about finding our way.

    1. Lisa McKay

      It’s so easy to become insular when you’re just together and move, isn’t it? You so enjoy being with each other on an “extended honeymoon” that it can be really easy not to make the effort to meet others.

  2. Sid

    Moved to Cali Colombia from the USA.. 28mo LDR.. I gave up everything.. Sold it all .. I adore the Country, meet and make friends and acquaintances often.. Marriage and her family was the goal . Children issues (adolescent behavoral problems school and home) have separated our time together after 4mos.. She must be at home often to supervise.. 16-20yr old.. She claims she loves me but doesn’t know how we can marry and be together .. To many issues at her home ( its her mothers home ) She say her 16 ur old will not move with if she marries.. When I see her I feel and see the love in her eye .. Are the tears ones of regret, shame or pity? I could be delusional .. Just wanting not to let it go? I’m in the country for keeps..There’s nothing to come back to or I want , nothing .. I do truely love her .. But you can not make anyone want you .. They must want you themselves.. ( just seeking opinions)

    1. Lisa McKay

      Apart from all the turmoil and speedbumps in your relationship (sorry about those, by the way!) it actually sounds like you’re in a good position. You know you want to stay, you like it there, and you’ve got your own friend already happening. So you can afford to give it some time and take the pressure off and wait for a while and see if/how things smooth out for her and she can sort out all her constraints. All the best, and good on you for making such a huge life change with such a positive attitude.

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